Secrets Of The Dead
When I couldn't bear it anymore
by Geraldine Moorkens Byrne
the nurse pointed to the glass door
the grounds are lovely
at this time of year.
I didn't like to tell her
I was dying for a cigarette;
there were quite a few inside,
gutted from the same.
I found a bench, private on a gravel walk
and tried to breath and inhale
all at once. I saw an old man eying me
greedily following each smoky tendril;
Jaysus, I could taste that, he whispered
and I nearly offered him one.
But the nurse stood sentinel on my manners.
Pleasantries suspended, down he sat;
flannel under duffle; woollen hat.
It's not the illness that I mind, he said
it's the dying; and he choked and wheezed
with mirth, gallows humour being in fashion here.
D'ya know what, he said, I hate the thought of them ones
pawing through my private things.
I left a letter in my bedside drawer-
I wish I'd burned it long ago. They'll
see my dirty underwear; What will they think
of the magazines? I could weep, he confided,
I'll die of the embarrassment;
this set him off again, asthmatic chuckling.
We were driven back inside with the rain;
I took up my accustomed place again
and tried to think of clever things to say
and visiting time dragged on -
while I made a mental inventory of
underwear and poetry and love letters
and tampons and diet sheets and tried
to calculate how fast they'd burn.